It's Toronto FC's opening 90 minutes as the favorites to win the 2018 Concacaf Champions League. They host the first-leg against Chivas at BMO Field on Tuesday (8pm ET - Univision Deportes and go90 app) with a newly established track record of beating Liga MX clubs. Whether or not they can make it three-in-a-row, Toronto has shown that the level of competition between MLS and Liga MX is closer than it's been in the Champions League era.
The Toronto Sun's Kurtis Larson has the weather conditions at BMO Field, with the cold and the wind at a level that may not favor either team. That's not optimal for Toronto, still treated like a team that needs every possible advantage to win this tournament. That requires downplaying what they've done so far.
MLSsoccer.com's James Grossi relays Toronto coach Greg Vanney's comments on the disciplinary points issue Concacaf created with the revamped Champions League. There's no reset built into the tournament. That's an issue for Toronto with their star players all holding yellows and playing with the risk of another yellow keeping them out of the second-leg. How that impacts the first-leg is an open question, with conditions and the threat of suspensions looming large for Toronto.
It's easy enough to fall back on the cliche of that's the stakes in this kind of tournament, but honestly do we really know that? This is year one in the latest revamp of the Champions League. Concacaf could decide another reworking is in order. They could do as Vanney suggests and modify the disciplinary points accumulation. They could follow UEFA's example and switch to a single-game final played on a weekend. Should FIFA rework the Club World Cup and make it an every four year summer tournament, Concacaf could change the scope of the Champions League entirely.
Where this leaves Toronto is playing for right now. They've addressed this tournament correctly if you value it as the biggest prize in North and Central American soccer. Toronto is certainly rating it over what's happening in MLS right now. That's a major step from hedging in the Champions League, something MLS teams did regularly when it was a longhaul tournament with a group stage. Whether or not it's worth the effort is still an open, and at least for Concacaf, unflattering question.
Also in the soccer news, Geoff Cameron subbed on in the 62nd minute for Stoke City's 1-1 draw at West Ham United. Peter Crouch scored for Stoke in the 79th minute with West Ham equalizing in the 90th. In the Bundesliga, Caleb Stanko wasn't involved in Freiburg's 2-0 loss at Mainz.
The Columbus Business Journal's Emily Bench reports on the legal filings over the Crew's proposed move to Austin. The LA Times' Kevin Baxter with the Galaxy after the first road trip with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The South China Morning Post's Andy Mitten explains why support is an issue at Barcelona's Camp Nou. The Independent's Jack Pitt-Brooke profiles Guingamp, a village team that's competitive in France's topflight. The Daily Mail's Ian Herbert tells the story of Manchester City under their current ownership. The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson explains the tactics City used to win the Premier League this season. BBC Sport's Simon Stone looks at criticism of the U-23 reserve system in the Premier League with the focus on Manchester United. ESPN's John Duerden on attendance issues for Korea's K-League.
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